In Focus

Women’s Cricket World Cup final: England flattened by the ‘best team in the world’

Australia lifted the trophy after a comprehensive 71-run victory at the Hagley Oval

It has been obvious for a while now to fans of women’s cricket that Australia are the “best team in the world”, said Raf Nicholson in The Guardian. And last Sunday, they “made it official”. Facing reigning champions England in the final of the Women’s World Cup, Meg Lanning’s side confirmed their dominance with a comprehensive 71-run victory. Australia are a class side, but they were handed a huge advantage by Heather Knight’s decision to bowl first on a flat wicket at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval. And their task became simpler still when England’s fielders dropped several chances. Australia’s openers alone put on 160 runs; Alyssa Healy struck 170 off 138 balls; and they finished on 356 for five – easily the highest total of the tournament. Faced with such a daunting target, “England might as well have got on the plane then and there”. That they even made a fist of it was entirely due to vice-captain Nat Sciver, who struck a heroic unbeaten 148 as her team were bowled out for 285. 

It’s a pity the final was so one-sided, because overall this was a “sensational” tournament that will do much to boost the standing of the women’s game, said Milly McEvoy in The Independent. Past World Cups have been somewhat marred by the gulf between the strongest and weakest teams. But here, even the two weakest sides – Pakistan and Bangladesh – were good enough to challenge the top nations, with lots of “nail-biting finishes”. Of the 31 matches played, no less than ten “went down to the final over”. And the competition was a hit with the New Zealand public, who – after two years of punishing Covid restrictions – joyfully “attended in their droves”. 

Still, it was somewhat disheartening to watch England being so comprehensively outplayed by Australia in the final, said Paul Newman in the Daily Mail. The side’s 2017 World Cup victory – sealed against India “on a glorious day at Lords” – represented a “massive opportunity for the English women’s game”. Their uneven performance in this tournament – they also lost their first three group matches – suggests they have failed to grasp that opportunity, whereas Australia have spent the past five years transforming themselves into a winning machine. One thing that is surely holding England back is the team’s “lack of diversity”, said Scyld Berry in The Daily Telegraph. Sophia Dunkley is their only regular non-white player, and one of only four “cricketers of colour to represent England Women since their inaugural game in 1934”. This “uniform mindset” spills over into the team’s tactics, which tend to be timid and unimaginative in pressure situations. The ECB must address these problems, if the already “wide margin” between England and Australia is not to become wider still. 

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